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The Heritage Trails are presented courtesy of CKUA Radio Network and Cheryl Croucher

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Government of Alberta

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German Immigration to Alberta, Part Two

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In 1891, a group of German homesteaders abandoned their first colony of Josefsburg near Medicine Hat, and moved it north to a place near Fort Saskatchewan.

According to historian David Leonard, the German settlers fared so much better there, the new colony of Josephburg attracted an even broader range of immigrants from their old home in Galicia.

Now Galicia, we know, of course, as a Ukrainian settlement, but these people were Moravian, and they were German-speaking and Germanic, racially. So, they settled this land, found it was good, and, because they communicated back to the Old Country how well they were doing in this area, other people of Ukrainian background in Galicia were encouraged to make settlement in the area as well. And so, as encouraged by Joseph Oleskew, Ukrainian settlement to the east of Fort Saskatchewan, in the area of Smoky Lake and Vegreville, began to really pick up right at the turn of the century, which was initiated by the initial settlement, and success of it, at Josephburg.

News of their prosperity brought more waves of German-speaking people to Bruderheim, Stony Plain, Edmonton, and beyond.

They actually inter-mixed quite well with the British-speaking peoples because, racially, they looked very similar, and it was only the fact of the different language, but one which was compatible, that they were able to blend in quite well.

And so, the settlement in the early 20th grew to such an extent, that approximately 10 to 12 percent of Albertans, as an ethnic group, were German, and not Ukrainian and not French, and this continued for most of the 20th century - the second biggest ethnic group in Alberta. It did not, of course, express its ethnicity as strongly as the French or the Ukrainians or others, simply because of the fact of two very serious world wars, in which Great Britain and Canada were fighting the forces of Germany.

With the onset of World War One, public resentment grew against German-speaking immigrants. People even petitioned to change the names of towns that had German origins.

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I'm Cheryl Croucher.

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            For more on the history of settlement in Alberta, visit Peel’s Prairie Provinces.